Women have an unusual educational opportunity this fall in Clatsop County: a scholarship program that will enable them to become certified welders.

Clatsop Community College is offering a one-year, Women in Welding program beginning in September. The Bradwood Landing LNG project is sponsoring scholarships for the program. Full scholarships are available for students who take the year-long class. Funding will cover child care, transportation, tuition and other costs for students, up to $12,660.

Students can earn a welding certificate that will enable them to qualify for jobs as welding apprentices.

Welding Instructor Harley Bristol, who works at the college's MERTS facility in Astoria, will be teaching the class.

"We're trying to get 15 female students signed up," he said. "It's a really good opportunity."

Bristol said welding has a public image that's not really deserved.

"People think welding is dirty work, but there are so many applications for it," he said. "Women can use it as a tool, even if it isn't their long term goal."

He said many students use welding to do metal art, as well as industrial work. There are also well-paid employment opportunities as welding inspectors.

Entry-level welders make about $13 an hour. Experienced welders can earn more than twice that amount

Pete Hackett is community relations liaison for Bradwood Landing. He's also the business and labor representative for the Workforce Investment Board, a state level advisory group of private and public sector leaders.

"Welders will be critical to the Bradwood facility," Hackett said. "And welders are in short supply."

Bristol said welding can be a rewarding trade for creative people who like to work with their hands. He said women also have a natural advantage as welders.

"They're generally better welders than men are," he said, adding that men tend to do better at tasks that require physical strength. "But women have better hand-eye coordination and they excel at details."

The application deadline for Women in Welding program scholarships is August 1st.

For more information, contact Clatsop Community College at (503) 338-2411.

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